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Keywords:

  • cohabitation;
  • cohort;
  • divorce;
  • marriage;
  • stability

An ongoing question remains for family researchers: Why does a positive association between cohabitation and marital dissolution exist when one of the primary reasons to cohabit is to test relationship compatibility? Drawing on recently collected data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth, the authors examined whether premarital cohabitation experiences were associated with marital instability among a recent contemporary (married since 1996) marriage cohort of men (N = 1,483) and women (N = 2,003). They found that a dichotomous indicator of premarital cohabitation was in fact not associated with marital instability among women and men. Furthermore, among cohabitors, marital commitment prior to cohabitation (engagement or definite plans for marriage) was tied to lower hazards of marital instability among women, but not men. This research contributes to our understanding of cohabitation, marital instability, and broader family change.